In Spain of the 1960s, a poor family of quinquis (mercheros), a nomadic ethnic group with a tradition as old as that of the gitanos (gypsies) of Spain and of obscure origins, live as poor nomads. They craft tin goods and repair metal. The son, Eleuterio Sánchez Rodriguez, nicknamed “El Lute”, steals some chickens and is condemned to six months in jail.
El Lute moves to the slum outskirts of Madrid with his common-law wife, Chelo. He starts an itinerant life as a peddler of pots and pans, and they live with their infant daughter in a quinqui shantytown. He gradually embarks upon as life of petty criminality. He participates in the robbery of a jewelry store, during which a guard is killed.
The Guardia Civil catch up with him fast. He is arrested again, but even under torture, he refuses to reveal the identities of his partners in crime. The two other suspects were soon arrested. All three were convicted and sentenced to death for murder. A last minute reprieve by General Franco saves their lives in the last minute, commuting the sentence to 30 years in military prison.
Later, while being escorted by two civil guards in a train, El Lute escapes. He eluded a nationwide manhunt for several weeks despite having a broken arm. The Civil Guards eventually track him down and return him to prison. Thanks to his daring escape from police custody and anti-Franco stance, El Lute becomes a folk hero and symbol of oppression of the poor under Franco.
El Lute: Run for Your Life (Spanish: El Lute: Camina o Revienta) is a 1987 Spanish film written and directed by Vicente Aranda, based on the memoirs of Eleuterio Sánchez, “El Lute”, a young convicted murderer who became legendary in Spain for his jail escape in the 1960s. It stars Imanol Arias and Victoria Abril. The film was a hit in Spain and made a big star of his leading actor. It was nominated to four Goya Awards (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress) and it is considered among the best Spanish films of the 1980s.
The film portrays the early criminal years of El Lute, and was adapted from his first volume of memoirs, published in 1977 while he was still in prison. The second film, El Lute II: mañana sere libre, continues his story and was based on his second volume of memoirs, published in 1979. Sánchez was paroled in 1981.
El Lute: Run for Your Life (1987)
Directed by: Vicente Aranda
Starring: Imanol Arias, Victoria Abril, Antonio Valero, Carlos Tristancho, Diana Peñalver, Margarita Calahorra, Raúl Fraire, Manuel de Blas, Luis Marín
Screenplay by: Vicente Aranda, Joaquim Jordà
Production Design by: Josep Rosell
Cinematography by: José Luis Alcaine, Alfredo Mayo
Film Editing by: Teresa Font
Costume Design by: María Eugenia Escrivá
Music by: José Nieto
Distributed by: Lola Films
Release Date: October 9, 1987